Can you paint over lead paint? Is it safe?

The very short answer is that yes, you can paint over lead-based paint if you want. It can help make deteriorated paint safely. But there are options that are significantly better for you to pursue than simply adding a layer of paint on top of it. 

While it may be an effective remediation technique, it needs to be done right. You can’t just do it with any paint you want. You can’t simply go to your local Home Depot and pick up the cheapest type of paint, spend an afternoon and get it done. It just isn’t quite that simple. 

However, the good news is that it can be done. The better news is that we have created a very extensive article on the topic that you might want to read. 

Check4Lead is in the business of selling lead test kits to homeowners and contractors alike. We also have a very big section of topics that we have covered that may help you. 

Check out this article to figure out how you would go about painting over lead paint. It explains how to encapsulate the dangerous paint. We put a lot of time and effort into it. It has recently increased significantly in popularity, which is an achievement we are very proud of. 

If you are capable of it, our recommendation is always to make sure that you remove lead paint wherever possible. Do so, along with all the various safety measures that need to be taken. It’s not just to make sure you stay protected while performing the work.

Do as much as possible to limit the spread of the dust. It is what you will be inhaling if you aren’t wearing the adequate respirator that will help you get the job done. There’s a whole section and article we have written that goes into a great deal of detail on how you can remove the paint. It touches on many of the different things you need to be aware of. 

Some of the safety precautions that we talk about in the article include wearing coveralls when you’re doing the work. It ensures you do not get the dust trapped in your regular clothes.

Some people choose to do it in old clothing lying around at home. It isn’t our recommendation as that type of clothing doesn’t provide the same level of protection that a professional suit will. You can get them at a good price if you look in the right places. The article additionally talks about the appropriate respirator that you need to be wearing for the purpose. 

Table of content

  • Should you encapsulate lead paint or have it removed? 
  • Dangers of lead paint
  • When you shouldn’t encapsulate
  • Which paints can you use for the purpose?
  • Working with a pro
  • Are you doing it yourself anyway?

Should you encapsulate lead paint or have it removed?

There’s no doubt that encapsulation can act as an immediate shield against dangerous material. There are a lot of situations where we wouldn’t be encouraging it. You might be better off in the long term having it completely addressed. Many hairline cracks could mean it’s better to abate the paint altogether.

Encapsulation may currently help you and your family avoid the dangers that come from exposed and damaged lead paint. All it is is simply a layer of protection on top of old paint. It is not a permanent fix but simply one that will hide the problem for now. Suppose you are planning on selling the home at a later point. In that case, you may be thinking that it would be too much money to have it completely abated. Still, encapsulation is not the end-all-be-all solution either. 

There’s no doubt about it – encapsulation or painting over lead paint is easier and cheaper than it is to have it removed. To a much lesser extent, you will have to worry about releasing lead dust into the air. Even if you choose to go down that route, it doesn’t mean you don’t have to take the necessary precautions to stay safe. 

It’s also important to know that you will not use the normal paint that you’re finding at your local hardware store either. It has to be special paint used for it. If you have a contractor, do it. Ensure that they are certified Renovation, Repair, and Painting, RRP, contractors who will take the necessary steps to do the work as it is supposed to be done.

This includes covering everything up with plastic sheeting and cleaning afterward using HEPA filters. It requires turning off the air filtration system, so it doesn’t end up going in there. Ensure that both vents and any surface are covered up that isn’t being used. On top of that, furniture and other objects should be taken out of the house for the project. 

If you have read other articles on the topic, they will point out how encapsulation isn’t just cheaper. Still, it’s also safer. While it may be cheaper, you will eventually have to deal with the issue again when the paint starts deteriorating. Their argument is also that it is safer because there isn’t the same amount of dust released into the air that can end anywhere.

More dust will be released when you’re removing paint. You or the contractor should take the adequate measures we mentioned before to ensure that it is not being inhaled. There is a reason why respirators are made specifically to help with lead and mold. You won’t be using any of those pieces of cloth that people are wearing during Covid, pretending as if they do anything. These are actual construction-grade masks that are made for the purpose.

They’re made to make sure that the filters you will be breathing through are catching that debris and dust you would otherwise get into the lungs. With the right precautions, you and the contractor would be safe doing the job. It is why we’re not necessarily choosing to accept the point that other companies are trying to make that this is supposed to be safer in one way or another. 

At least these websites and companies suggest that there are times when you can and when you can’t encapsulate it. That much we agree on, which I guess is a good thing. In one of the later sections, we’ll talk more on the topic of whether it is encouraged that you encapsulate. Should you remove it instead? Maybe we haven’t already made a sufficiently strong case in favor of going the full route and keeping your family safe. 

Would you rather put a band aid on the wound, or would you rather fix the underlying issue of why the wound is there? That is, even if it might be more expensive.

These principles apply whether you’re replacing plaster with something else or doing general remodel at your house.

Dangers to Know About

It may seem obvious since you have made it this far into the article. We find it important to point out that it is a harmful material that you are dealing with if you don’t know what you are doing. It is no joke that it was banned for residential housing paint more than 40 years ago. It has been that long since its ban. The EPA has made a lot of effort through its RRP program to minimize the exposure to kids and adults. 

It’s no joke that the material was effectively banned in consumer paint in 1992. At this point, its use was severely limited. It also isn’t a joke that there are regular toy recalls. They’re usually from foreign manufacturers, which stems from the fact that material has been put in a bunch of toys. It is then causing kids all over the country to fall sick with lead poisoning. It happens when they put it in their mouths because kids do it. We’re dealing with a type of material that may significantly improve the durability of certain things and have many drawbacks.

People started realizing in the 1950s that this metal may not be all that great for us. The effects caused by the inclusion of the material in various things are still causing unwanted effects throughout society. Kids are the most exposed to it. If you start looking around the internet, we’re not the only ones pointing out just how damaging this is to our society.

It’s clear how it is still causing social injustice between the rich and the poor. It is no joke that we think that lead is a big contributor when it comes to the dangers of environmental racism within our own country. Public housing often has large amounts of this stuff in the walls. It is such a big issue that public housing is suffering from it. Given how it is often affecting the poorest parts of the population, we don’t believe it is anything any politician will be taking very seriously.

There may be some instances where the focus has been drawn to it. It’s obvious in New York and the Melrose Housing or inner-city schools. We don’t anticipate the most vulnerable will gain the safety they truly deserve. 

Suppose you don’t get convinced that lead paint is dangerous from reading on our website alone. We hope that you will take the time also to check out other websites that have an opinion on the topic. Search for lead poisoning, and you will see that too many of society’s youngest members are still being tested positive. They have lead levels in their blood that are significantly higher than they should reasonably be. It’s because we haven’t been able to address the various sources properly.

You can still choose to encapsulate it rather than remove it, but is it the best solution? We surely don’t think so. Giving your kids and yourself the best chance at the best life is just what you deserve more than anything. 

When you shouldn’t encapsulate

As we previously mentioned, other websites do point out that there are times when it isn’t ideal for encapsulating. If you have read the previous section, you wouldn’t be surprised to know our stance. We take it a bit further than most other sites do. However, the consensus is that you shouldn’t be encapsulating when the paint starts to deteriorate.

It makes sense. On the other hand, there isn’t much reason you should encapsulate it if the paint isn’t deteriorating. Lead paint in good condition isn’t dangerous in and on itself. It’s only when it deteriorates and starts peeling or flaking off that it becomes a health risk.

It’s because it turns into dust. The paint chips may end up landing on something that is somehow consumed. We understand that you may want to paint your walls after 40 years. The chances are that it hasn’t been all that long since it was done. If the paint is in good condition, it is in good condition. When the paint is peeling or flaking, your encapsulation job won’t be able quite to achieve the same result anyway. 

You probably already know that if the paint is in bad condition. You will usually need to sand the area or smooth it out before you start painting it or end up with irregularities in the work. As far as lead paint, bad condition means bad paint job. It means it’s not effective.

Other websites we keep bringing up say that encapsulation won’t be the solution if a surface has deteriorated. We always recommend hiring a professional to do the job. It includes someone who has the right RRP certification and knows how to handle lead paint. The RRP certification has been specifically made to handle lead paint properly. It includes protective measures during and after cleaning. 

Which paints can you use for the purpose?

If you choose to proceed with the purpose, there are a couple of different types of paint you should know about that may be used. Always make sure that you ask the professional at the store before you proceed. However, they’ll best be able to help you with the specific type that you’re considering.

The 3 main types include cement-type paints, polymers, and epoxy. The cement type’s disadvantage is that it will need to be mixed. In contrast, the two others are simpler for your average DIY person. Therefore, they’re the ones we recommend here. 

While it may seem obvious, you should check the recommendations provided by the manufacturer to see how the product is best used. Take the necessary precautions that help protect your health. They’re usually applied with a brush, spray gun, or roller. You will need to watch out for damaged paint in the process. 

If any parts of the paint are damaged, do not simply go ahead and do what you would normally do in addressing it. That is not the solution. Rather seek out our article on removing lead paint, where we address how you should handle certain parts in pristine condition. 

Even if you believe that the wall is in good condition, we still urge you to wear the protective clothing and respirator that you would otherwise use.

Working with a pro

Have you decided to use a pro instead of dealing with the lead paint yourself? Great! We are happy to hear that you are making what we believe is the safer choice by doing so. We encourage you to go out and choose a pro who has the right certifications for the purpose. Don’t choose someone who is just going to cut corners, thereby saving themselves and probably you too a little bit of money. 

Trust me when I say that I have heard some crazy stories about homeowners working with contractors. The home they were working on would mandate that the RRP regulations be followed, given its age. The contractor they worked with took it to the extreme to avoid due process and proper lead testing. They also have to document it properly. We understand that money may be tight on occasion. The issue is that if the proper steps aren’t taken, you will likely end up inhaling lead dust as a consequence.

The homeowner we spoke with was working with a contractor. He chose to hang carpets in front of the house. It made it impossible for other people from the street to see what was going on on the inside. It was in a notorious town for old construction, so the chances of lead paint on the walls are very high. 

If you’re looking for a contractor, ask them what measures they’re taking to ensure protection. It’s both for you and themselves. Skimping on protection, and the job will not pass if there is ever an inspection or the EPA chooses to come by. 

How will contractors skimp? There are different ways contractors may choose to try and save some money. While we don’t blame them for wanting to save money, it could cost you and them money in fines if it is discovered. If they even choose to test for the presence of the heavy metal, they may do it with tests that aren’t EPA-approved.

They might also not choose to test every surface. Another way for them to skimp and save a little bit could be to use a respirator that isn’t rated for the purpose. Maybe they reuse the plastic sheeting used. While they may use a HEPA vacuum to do the cleaning afterward, there’s a chance that they don’t. If they don’t, the cleaning won’t be what it’s supposed to be.

The HEPA vacuums have special filters that catch the particles you shouldn’t be inhaling. If you want to make sure that your home isn’t full of lead, you can buy the kits from us. There are also dedicated pros out that would rather use an XRF machine to test for lead.

Are you doing it yourself anyway?

Suppose you are still deciding that the right way to do this work is by doing it yourself. In that case, there are certain things you should be aware of. We want to ensure that you take adequate measures to keep yourself from unnecessary exposure to old homes.

First of all, you should know that the risk that your home contains lead increases dramatically the older your home is. To check whether there is a presence or not, the most common test to use is the 3M LeadCheck. You can find it by going to our home page. 

Secondly, you should know that it’s important that you seal off the area you are working on. Do it with 6mm plastic sheeting as you’re working. If you’ve read the entire article, it also means everything else has to be taken out of the room. It includes rugs and furniture. We also encourage you to seal off 5 ft beyond the room you’re working in. However, you may be making sure that you’re properly sealing everything already.

Suppose the area you’re working on doesn’t have a door but rather just an opening. In that case, you must create a zip solution using Zip Wall self-adhesive. That way, you make sure that the dust doesn’t leave the room. 

Use a respirator, goggles, gloves, and coveralls to avoid the dust sticking to your skin. Always wet the area you are working on, which helps minimize the amount of dust in the air. 

Remove lead paint wherever possibleFollow safety regulations
Painting over lead paintEncapsulates the dangerous paing. Immediate shield. Easy and cheap
Safety measures / precautionsMust be rigorously followed
Limit the spread of the dustCovering with plastic sheeting
Wear protective gearProtecting yourself
Cleaning afterwardThoroughly remove last traces. HEPA filters. Special respirators


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